Bookshelf

Bookshelf provides descriptions and notices of recent publications on Pennsylvania subjects.

Federal Philadelphia, 1785-1825: The Athens of the Western World

by Beatrice B. Garvan
Philadelphia Museum of Art (96 pages, paper, $12.95)

While thousands of mu­seum exhibitions, special commemorative booklets and scholarly studies celebrated the bicentennial of the United States Constitution by focus­ing on the delegates and their Convention two centuries ago, or the impact of the landmark document, the Philadelphia Museum of Art elected to observe the anniversary with an eloquence and grandeur that reflected the city and its residents during this exciting Constitutional period. The exhibition, from which this beautifully illustrated cata­logue resulted, examined Philadelphia as the young nation’s flourishing center for the arts, which found a secure place among its ideals and ambitions. Federal Philadelphia offers an anecdotal introduc­tion to the city during a most provocative and exciting era, a period of terrific innovation and experimentation when Philadelphians were deeply concerned not only about their early republic, but about inter­national events in England and Europe as well. The hand­some catalogue is not meant to be encyclopedic; rather, it is (as was the exhibition) in­tended to portray what people saw and thought about daily life in the city, about national and international issues, about the dramatic changes in social life, and about the emergence of the fine arts into the public domain. To accurately portray the concerns and ideas of the city’s residents and leaders, the catalogue is richly illus­trated with a wide variety of objects and artifacts in various mediums that touch upon many facets of Philadelphia life of that momentous period.

 

George Luks: An American Artist

by Judith H. O’Toole, editor
Sordoni Art Gallery, 1987 (108 pages, paper, $12.00)

Also the title of an essay by the editor in this compact-but comprehensive-museum catalogue, George Luks: An American Artist addresses the life, career and vision of this talented Pennsylvanian who, with fellow native son, John Sloan, was a member of The Eight. Luks and his compatri­ots formed the distinctive­ – and now internationally acclaimed – cadre of twentieth century artists which freed American art from its stolid European traditions and hailed a uniquely American modernism. Born in 1866 in Williamsport (Lycoming County) into a cultured and genteel family, George Luks was a highly controversial and colorful individual known for his braggadocio, as well as his genius. The catalogue goes far beyond his personal life and idiosyncrasies, one of which was his abhorrence of aca­demic training. Although he attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (see “The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts: An Ideal and A Symbol” by Jeanette M. Toohey in the spring 1988 issue), he railed against the academic environ­ment which he found pain­fully restrictive. His philosophy of art was often shrouded by his fury; an im­passioned individual, he pros­elytized as fervently as he painted. George Luks: An Amer­ican Artist depicts the subject as an unflagging champion of American art who wished that “every American who cares for art would fill his house with American paintings …. ” The catalogue will fascinate stu­dents and scholars of twenti­eth century art, as well as entertain even casual readers. Extensive notes follow each of the essays, making the book an invaluable reference tool.

 

Quest for Faith, Quest for Freedom

by Otto Reimherr, editor
Susquehanna University Press, 1987 (203 pages, cloth, $28.50)

The eleven essays in this collection, subtitled Aspects of Pennsylvania’s Religious Experi­ence, owe their origin to a series of papers presented in commemoration of the three hundredth anniversary of the granting of Pennsylvania to William Penn by England’s King Charles II in 1681. The founder initiated a “Holy Experiment” in which adher­ents of many different reli­gious views were encouraged to nurture faith while enjoying the blessings of liberty. In this context, this unique experi­ence is an instructive example of how faith can, indeed, blossom in a free society. Quest for Faith, Quest for Freedom opens with an introductory essay outlining the distinctive contributions of Pennsylvania to the rise of religious liberty in America, while the second entry addresses Penn’s dedica­tion to religious freedom, a devotion that became the foundation for Pennsylvania’s subsequent religious and cultural experience. The spe­cific expressions of such a unique policy are the subjects of the remaining pieces, which survey the rich variety of crea­tive movement, as well as personalities, that emerged throughout the Common­wealth’s history. Each essay concludes with annotated notes and references, and the entire volume is thoroughly indexed.